After two and a half years and dozens of failed attempts to find a compromise, the opposing camps in Football Federation Australia’s ongoing congress wrangle are still miles apart.
As FFA chairman Steven Lowy famously said in November last year, it’s all about money and power.
More specifically – who gets to decide how broadcast funds are distributed, and who gets to decide who sits on the board of the national body.
Strip away all the legal and governance mumbo jumbo and they remain the unresolved questions at the heart of a long-running saga that has hamstrung the sport in Australia and dragged FFA to the brink of potential suspension from FIFA.
The eight-member congress review working group (CRWG), assembled by FIFA in a last-ditch bid to strike a diplomatic solution, has submitted its report on what needs to change to bring FFA in line with global statutes.
Released publicly on Tuesday, the 103-page document represents an “opportunity for a new era of collaboration, transparency and democracy for Australian football”, according to former Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin, the frontman for the 10 A-League clubs.
It was warmly endorsed by Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak and his Matildas counterpart Lydia Williams.
But Lowy and his board are strongly opposed, listing six grievances with the CRWG’s recommendations which they say gives too much control to the professional game at the expense of the grassroots.
The CRWG report and FFA’s response simply highlight how nothing has changed.
FFA is determined not to give A-League clubs the power of veto to block board appointments or constitutional change, which the 29-member congress structure set out by the CRWG would give them.
This is the same impasse that has prompted two separate visits from FIFA and Asian Football Confederation officials intending to act as peacemakers, only to retreat back overseas with no progress made.
FFA is also refusing to yield control over the A-League’s proposed transition into an independent entity.
The CRWG says the process should “begin and end” with the congress and wrap up in time for the 2019-20 season.
But the board believes only duly elected, independent directors can make decisions for the good of the whole sport, not just parts of it.
As the chief revenue driver in the sport, the A-League clubs believe they are entitled to have more of a say in how FFA and the competition is run and a bigger slice of the TV money they generate.
What matters now is what FIFA thinks. It has repeatedly tried and consistently failed to find middle ground.
FIFA’s member associations committee is expected to rubber-stamp the CRWG’s proposals on August 20, then ask for them to be passed at an FFA extraordinary general meeting in mid-September.
Four of the smallest state federations in the country – the ACT, NT, Northern NSW and Tasmania – are in lockstep with FFA, giving rise to the doomsday scenario of FIFA intervention if they vote down the changes, which they have indicated is likely.
If so, FIFA could suspend FFA until the mess is sorted once and for all – putting the Socceroos’ defence of their Asian Cup crown and the Matildas’ pursuit of the Women’s World Cup in serious jeopardy.
It’d be a drastic outcome, but FIFA may not have any other option.